Prehistory

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Tools Of A Kind. First Neanderthal cave paintings discovered in Spain - life - 10 February 2012. Cave paintings in Malaga, Spain, could be the oldest yet found – and the first to have been created by Neanderthals.

First Neanderthal cave paintings discovered in Spain - life - 10 February 2012

Looking oddly akin to the DNA double helix, the images in fact depict the seals that the locals would have eaten, says José Luis Sanchidrián at the University of Cordoba, Spain. They have "no parallel in Palaeolithic art", he adds. His team say that charcoal remains found beside six of the paintings – preserved in Spain's Nerja caves – have been radiocarbon dated to between 43,500 and 42,300 years old.

That suggests the paintings may be substantially older than the 30,000-year-old Chauvet cave paintings in south-east France, thought to be the earliest example of Palaeolithic cave art. Stone Age Art Gets Animated. Welcome to Animation Domination, Stone Age style.

Stone Age Art Gets Animated

By about 30,000 years ago, Europeans were using cartoon-like techniques to give observers the impression that lions and other wild beasts were charging across cave walls, two French investigators find. LEGGING IT OUT Ancient artists at France's Chauvet Cave superimposed drawings of two bison to create an eight-legged beast intended to depict trotting or running, two researchers say. M. Azema, J. Clottes, Chauvet Cave scientific team. Were Neandertals and Modern Humans Just Ships in the Night?

Researchers have long debated how long Neandertals stuck around after modern humans invaded their home territories in Europe and Asia around 40,000 years ago.

Were Neandertals and Modern Humans Just Ships in the Night?

Some say as long as 10,000 years; others think Neandertals went extinct almost immediately. A new radiocarbon dating study of a Neandertal site in Russia concludes that the latter scenario is most likely, and that Neandertals and modern humans were probably like ships in the night. But don’t expect this to be the last word on this contentious subject. Neandertals and modern humans likely encountered one another at least twice during prehistory. Industrial revolution sealed Neanderthals' fate - life - 28 July 2011. Forget peaceful interbreeding: a new analysis of archaeological sites in south-west France has resurrected the idea that it was good old-fashioned competition that led to the demise of the European Neanderthals in the face of modern humans.

Industrial revolution sealed Neanderthals' fate - life - 28 July 2011

Since a recent analysis of the revealed the first clear evidence that , researchers from a number of academic fields have seized on this nugget of information to formulate new – and less brutal – hypotheses for the Neanderthals' fate. For instance, immunologists suggest modern humans could survive in Neanderthal territory only because they bred with the locals and so . Mathematicians, meanwhile, have proposed that some Neanderthal populations disappeared not because of fierce competition with a superior species but because of . But these hypotheses forget a crucial point, says Paul Mellars at the University of Cambridge. Stone Age toe could redraw human family tree - life - 10 August 2011. ON THE western fringes of Siberia, the Stone Age Denisova cave has surrendered precious treasure: a toe bone that could shed light on early humans' promiscuous relations with their hominin cousins.

Stone Age toe could redraw human family tree - life - 10 August 2011

New Scientist has learned that the bone is now in the care of Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who revealed the first genetic evidence of interbreeding between ancient humans and other hominins (New Scientist, 30 July, p 34). There are tantalising hints that the find strengthens the case for a third major group of hominins circulating in Eurasia at the same time as early humans and the Neanderthals. It might possibly even prove all three groups were interbreeding (see diagram).

The Denisova cave had already yielded a fossil tooth and finger bone, in 2000 and 2008. Last year, Pääbo's DNA analysis suggested both belonged to a previously unknown group of hominins, the Denisovans. Human Ancestors Interbred with Related Species. From Nature magazine.

Human Ancestors Interbred with Related Species

Our ancestors bred with other species in the Homo genus, according to a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors say that up to 2% of the genomes of some modern African populations may originally came from a closely related species. Paleontologists have long wondered whether modern humans came from a single, genetically isolated population of hominins or whether we are a genetic mix of various hominin species.

Last year, an analysis comparing the Neanderthal genome sequence to that of modern H. sapiens showed that some interbreeding did take place between the two species in Europe some time between 80 and 30,000 years ago and that, to a certain extent, Neanderthals 'live on' in the genes of modern humans. It has been a mystery whether similar genetic mixing took place among Homo species even earlier, before the populations that became modern humans left Africa. Were Neanderthals Victims of Their Own Success? | Hominid Hunting. Neanderthals’ successful adaptation to climate change may have contributed to their extinction by leading to more interactions with humans.

Were Neanderthals Victims of Their Own Success? | Hominid Hunting

Image courtesy of Flickr user e_monk A popular explanation for the disappearance of Neanderthals is that modern humans were superior, evolutionarily speaking. Deep sea fishing for tuna began 42,000 years ago - life - 24 November 2011. Tuna has been on the menu for a lot longer than we thought.

Deep sea fishing for tuna began 42,000 years ago - life - 24 November 2011

Even 42,000 years ago, the deep-sea dweller wasn't safe from fishing tackle according to new finds in southeast Asia. We know that open water was no barrier to travel in the Pleistocene – humans must have crossed hundreds of kilometres of ocean to reach Australia by 50,000 years ago. But while humans had already been pulling shellfish out of the shallows for 100,000 years by that point, the first good evidence of fishing with hooks or spears comes much later – around 12,000 years ago. Our ancestors speak out after 3 million years - life - 23 November 2011. Listen to simulations of our ancestors' first sounds YOU may think humanity's first words are lost in the noise of ancient history, but an unlikely experiment using plastic tubes and puffs of air is helping to recreate the first sounds uttered by our distant ancestors.

Our ancestors speak out after 3 million years - life - 23 November 2011

Many animals communicate with sounds, but it is the variety of our language that sets us apart. Over millions of years, changes to our vocal organs have allowed us to produce a rich mix of sounds. One such change was the loss of the air sac - a balloon-like organ that helps primates to produce booming noises. All primates have an air sac except humans, in whom it has shrunk to a vestigial organ. The World's Oldest Profession: Chef. Nearly 2 million years ago, it seems the original naked chef was cooking up a storm.

The World's Oldest Profession: Chef

Homo erectus, the extinct hominid that’s a mere branch or so away from humans on the family tree, was the first to master cooking, new evidence suggests. This seminal event had huge implications for hominid evolution, giving the ancestors of modern humans time and energy for activities such as running, thinking deep thoughts and inventing things like the wheel and beer-can chicken. CHEW, CHEW, SLEEP, CHEW This chimp and other non-human primates spend nearly half their time eating, but new research demonstrates that the cooking skills of Homo erectus allowed the lineage to save time and extract more nutrients, paving the way for bigger brains.

Ronan Donovan. Entoptics or Doodles: Children of the Cave. There was a time when Paleolithic cave paintings were construed primarily through the lens of “art,” an interpretive stance which assumes that at least some Paleolithic peoples were “artists” who painted for pleasure. Because this lens is so subjective (and creative), all manner of interpretations were offered. Whether prosaic or fanciful, this approach raised troubling questions. Aside from the usual concerns about over interpretation, some wondered whether there was any justification for assuming that Paleolithic people had an essentially modern aesthetic category which might be called “art.” If they didn’t, it would follow that artistic interpretations of the cave paintings were just that and shed little light on Paleolithic minds. Shelters Date To Stone Age. Easter Island Statue Project. Stonehenge Had Lecture Hall Acoustics.

The stone slabs of England's Stonehenge may have been more than just a spectacular sight to the ancient people who built the structure; they likely created an acoustic environment unlike anything they normally experienced, new research hints. "As they walk inside they would have perceived the sound environment around them had changed in some way,"said researcher Bruno Fazenda, a professor at the University of Salford in the United Kingdom. "They would have been stricken by it, they would say, 'This is different.'

" Easter Island. “The statues walked,” Easter Islanders say. Archaeologists are still trying to figure out how—and whether their story is a cautionary tale of environmental disaster or a celebration of human ingenuity. By Hannah Bloch Video Animation by Hans Weise, Spencer Millsap, Fernando G. Baptista, and Fanna Gebreyesus On a winter night last June, José Antonio Tuki, a 30-year-old artist on Easter Island, did one of the things he loves best: He left his one-room home on the southwest coast and hiked north across the island to Anakena beach. How Africa Became the Cradle of Humankind | Hominid Hunting. Iceman Autopsy. By Stephen S. Hall Shortly after 6 p.m. on a drizzling, dreary November day in 2010, two men dressed in green surgical scrubs opened the door of the Iceman's chamber in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy.

They slid the frozen body onto a stainless steel gurney. Ötzi the iceman's stomach throws up a surprise - life - 11 December 2011. IT'S time to rethink Ötzi the iceman's last hours. The theory that he was caught and killed after a lengthy and exhausting chase through the Alps clashes with new evidence that he sat down for a leisurely meal no more than an hour before his violent death. Ötzi's body was discovered in 1991 inside a glacier near the mountainous border between Italy and Austria.